How To Attract New Types of Members to Your Association


Membership retention is important. However, sometimes, you may encounter situations where members have to leave, and no amount of persuading can bring them back. That is where attracting new members comes in.

Knowing how to increase membership in your nonprofit organization is an important skill if you want to make up for the members you have lost. In this guide, we show you how to do just that by following these steps:

Let’s go!

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Why Is It Important To Attract New Types of Members?

People like to join communities where they feel welcome. If your community only appeals to a niche crowd, it is unlikely that many people are going to want to join.

Unfortunately, it does not matter how welcoming your organization is; some members still leave. Here are a few of the top reasons why you might lose association members: 

  • Move: If a member moves far enough away that they are no longer in your neighborhood, city, or state, then they likely cannot stick with you — unless you are a national association.

  • Job change: A member may take a job that is too demanding for them to continue working with your organization. Or, maybe you are a professional organization, and their new job is no longer within your field.

  • Retirement: Many people see retirement as a new beginning in their life. They may choose to move, start traveling, or relax. In all of these cases, your chance of losing them increases.

  • Other pursuits: Passions ebb and flow throughout a person’s life. Often, membership loss occurs when people lose passion for your mission and move on to support other associations.

As we discuss below, diversifying your membership base by attracting new members can make these inevitable losses less painful. 

how-to-attract-new-members-to-an-association-why-its-importantTristan is ready to start attracting some new members!

What Do Members Do?

Members are the linchpin of your nonprofit. Without them, your organization cannot tackle its mission. That is because they provide: 

  • Funding: Members often pay membership fees that you then use to fund programs to forward your mission. They can also choose to make additional donations on top of their dues.

  • Event support: Participation can make or break your events. After all, who wants to attend a party if nobody else is going? Your members can bring your events to life by attending themselves or encouraging others in their networks to do so.

  • Marketing: Members can publicize your association for you. Each one belongs to several networks. For example, one working mom may have mom friends, coworkers, and neighbors that they can talk to about you. Therefore, the more people you have within your membership base, the greater your visibility. 

What Does Attracting Diverse Members Mean?

Diversity does not just mean bringing in people with different likes and dislikes. Instead, you achieve diversity when your association has members from all walks of life. That means attracting members from different cultures, socio-economic statuses, ages, and more. 

Here are a few reasons why attracting a diverse audience with your membership drive ideas is so important. 

  • Your mission reaches a wider group of people. Every nonprofit has several smaller goals that it wants to accomplish that feed into its larger mission. The more people you have participating in your organization, the more smaller goals you can accomplish during the group’s lifespan. 

  • Your association is less vulnerable to losing big groups of members. When you diversify your nonprofit’s target audience, you ensure that if you do lose a big group of members all at once, you can still survive. In other words, you still have members around to provide you with funding, attend your events, and more.

  • New supporters inject new ideas into your association. When you keep your crowd diverse, you bring in new ideas. That way, you can solve problems in ways you had never thought of before.

Pro Tip: When more groups of people interact, the risk of conflict increases. Have a plan in place that integrates your new types of members into your existing membership base. This will cut down on miscommunication and misunderstanding. 


Step #1: Define Your New Target Group

To start the diversification process, you have to figure out what groups of people would most like to participate in your organization. Each sector of the population is called a demographic. There are seemingly infinite demographics to choose from, including: 

  • Gen Zers

  • Trade workers

  • Younger professionals 

  • Retirees

  • Veterans 

It is impossible to target every demographic. So, you must determine the ones that make the most sense for your association. You can find new target groups by:

  • Seeing who other organizations with similar missions target

  • Networking in person or online to gauge interest in your organization


Step #2: Gather Information on Your Target Group

You cannot attract your new target audience without first knowing the people in it. For each new group you want to target, find out: 

  • What they do for a living

  • How much they make

  • What kind of education they have

  • What they enjoy doing in their free time

  • How old they are

  • Where they live

  • Whether they have partners, kids, and/or pets 

Once you have this information, you can create a persona. This persona embodies your target audience. That way, you think of them every time you send them an email or make other decisions that affect them. 

Pro Tip: To expand your membership base as quickly as possible, you may need to target multiple demographics or audiences at once. You have to walk the line between finding groups that may be interested in your goals and targeting demographics that are too narrow. 


Step #3: Adapt the Member Lifecycle

You should already have an established lifecycle for your membership base. This lifecycle is the journey that each member goes through in your association. The lifecycle begins with your first interaction with the new member and continues through the renewal (hopefully) of their membership. Having a lifecycle plan is essential for both attracting and retaining members. 

how-to-attract-new-members-to-an-association-adaptAnthony is thinking of the best ways to adapt his member lifecycle.

Your new target groups may have different goals, wants, and needs. Thus, you may find that you have to change your existing lifecycle. You may even need to create a separate lifecycle for each new group. 


Step #4: Offer Appropriate Value

Your followers must feel like they get something out of paying to be a part of your association. What does this mean? You can measure your value by what perks, benefits, and extras that you offer them. These incentives may include: 

  • Free or discounted upgrades to other membership tiers

  • Networking opportunities 

  • Free or discounted merch

  • Mentorship opportunities

  • In-person and virtual events 

  • Free or discounted subscriptions to industry publications and other resources

Your job is to determine what your demographic wants. Creating value around these wants is one of the best strategies to grow your membership pool.


Step #5: Establish Means of Communication

There are many ways to ensure open communication between you and your new or prospective members. An up-to-date website, professional emails, and frequent social media posts are just the beginning. In addition, you also have to make sure that you answer their questions and address their concerns. 

This is a lot of work. That is why we recommend having a team of membership-specific personnel. At the top, you should have a membership director. Below that, you may have a person who handles the content and marketing strategy and a person who addresses the member concerns.

Pro Tip: The internet is not the only tool you can use to bring in new members. "Old-fashioned" strategies can also work depending on your target audience. Distribute paper flyers, or plan in-person events. These efforts can be especially appealing to baby boomers and Gen Xers. 


Step #6: Retain Your New Members

After you start seeing individuals from your new target demographic trickle in, you need to work on keeping them around. Even with a diverse membership base, you cannot survive if members are constantly coming in one door and out the door. So, we would be remiss if we did not mention some of our member retention ideas:

  • Keep communication open: Stay in regular contact with your members. That does not mean just talking at them, though. You need to leave room for them to give their feedback on your association. On top of making them feel heard, you can get a lot of valuable insights about how to improve your membership program that way. That, in turn, leads to an increasing membership base.

  • Onboard effectively: Retaining your members begins with onboarding. If the onboarding process goes smoothly, members start with a high opinion of your association. Thus, they are more likely to participate. 

  • Offer rewards: Reward your active and engaged members with discounts, prizes, and praise. These actions not only make your members feel seen and heard, they can also increase club participation or engagement. 

how-to-attract-new-members-to-an-association-retainEmily is feeling great about her plan to attract and retain new members!


Final Thoughts

You may feel like your association is stuck in a membership rut. Perhaps, it seems like you have reached all of the potential members in your community and have nowhere else to go. Thankfully, this is simply not true. Expanding your outreach to new types of members can help ensure the continued success of your organization.

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💡Why is it important to attract new types of members to your association?

You need a constant membership base around to support your mission. If you cannot get by with your current target audience, you can expand into other groups to attract new prospective members. Find out more. 

🔑 How do you attract new types of members to your association?

Attracting new members starts with research. Figure out who you want to target and how you can reach them. Then, do it! Find out more. 

📝 How do you retain new members in your association?

Members want to feel seen and heard. If you reward engagement, communicate consistently, and onboard effectively, you can increase member satisfaction, which, in turn, increases member retention. Find out more.

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